What to do about older drivers? Depends on who you ask.

By Dylan DesRoche

Oct. 14, 2015

The cool fall breeze hit my face as an approaching car, driven by an older man, stopped next to me at the crosswalk.

I began to cross, making my way to the office in downtown Charlottetown, then it happened.

The old man decided it was his turn to go. His car lurched forward, bumping my leg. I jumped to avoid him. The vehicle once again stopped.

Looking over my shoulder, legs thankfully intact, I saw the driver had a confused look on his face.

Problems with older drivers aren’t unusual.

Nationally, according to Statistic Canada’s motor traffic collision stats, in 2013, drivers age 65-plus were involved in 26 per cent more fatal accidents than younger drivers ages 25 to 40.

Tempting as it might be, however we should try to keep age out of the conversation when it comes to drivers and safety, said Olive Bryanton. She works with the PEI Centre on Health and Aging at UPEI.

“There has been absolutely no proof that taking a test makes people a better driver.”

It’s better to focus on education for not just seniors, but for all drivers, she said.

“I think we should be looking at all individual’s ability to drive and not their age, because there are bad drivers of all ages on the road.”

In Ontario, drivers 80 and older must take a variety of tests every two years in order to stay on the road. They must pass a vision test, undergo a driver record review, participate in a 45-minute group education session and, in some cases, take a road test.

The goal isn’t to stop seniors from driving, said Bob Nichols, of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, it’s to keep seniors and other drivers safe.

“Ontario data indicates that the rate of fatal collision involvement among seniors continues to be higher than that of the general driving population.” He said in a email.

“In 2008-2012, the average fatal collision involvement rate for drivers age 80 and over was 1.50 per 10,000 licensed drivers compared to 0.80 for drivers of all ages.”

The first stage of the senior drivers program ran from 2008-2012 and a 54 per cent decrease in fatal collisions for 80-plus drivers followed, said Nichols.

P.E.I. has no plans to implement mandatory driving tests for seniors, said Ron Ryder, a communications officer with the P.E.I. department of transportation, infrastructure and energy.

Instead, P.E.I. relies on a restriction system. This system requires doctors to notify the department if they think someone shouldn’t be driving said, Ryder.

“The restrictions vary from how busy the road they’re allowed to be on, to only being able to drive during the day if it’s a vision issue.”